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The Jewel of Moon and Starlight

Author's Afterword





The Bear Prince


Once when castles flew and dragons lived in them, there was a very poor family in a very poor village. What food and clothes the family could get, they gave first to their son, and then their eldest daughter, who gave her clothes to the next eldest, and so on, till – mended and ragged – it got to the youngest.

One day in winter, the youngest girl was out gathering sticks and twigs for kindling (for she was so weak and thin that she could not bring true firewood). She happened upon a fine fur coat, hidden beneath a pile of snow, amidst a bush. It was as white as snow itself, and glittered like frost, but it was long and so warm that her chilled fingers were at once as comfortable as if it were spring. At first, she thought to put the coat on, but then she thought that she was grubby, and surely the fur was so fine, it would go to someone else. Her brother would want it, and so would her sister, though their coats were the warmest in the family. But perhaps it could go to the oldest granny in the village. Perhaps it could go to the headman, who collected the taxes for the lord of the land. Perhaps it could be sent to the lord himself, and he would not ask for any other tax that year.

So the girl walked through the woods, holding the fine coat and thinking of who would need it most, and if she could give it to them without her parents finding that she had not given it to them first. She was almost so lost in thought to miss the scrunching of someone else's footsteps in the snow, and barely hid in time. (For out in the woods, one might meet robbers, or wolves, or any number of dangers to a young girl alone.)

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